Lacie-brand external drive won't turn on
December 10, 2017 7:49 PM   Subscribe

We have a 3 terabyte Lacie external drive that worked just fine up until a few minutes ago and now won't turn on. What next?

The box says d2 USB3 Thunderbolt Series, and it's 3 terabytes. I believe it was purchased in 2012. We use it for backing up our computer, and it has a lot of music and picture files on it. It's only turned on when it's actually in use, we don't leave it on all the time.

This evening we unplugged it (after it had been turned off) so that we could connect it to our PS4 and transfer some video clips and screenshots to it (so we could delete them from the PS4 to free up space). The drive turned on after it was connected to the PS4, which recognized it as a USB storage device. We selected what we wanted to transfer, the files started to transfer, and then suddenly the PS4 informed us that there wasn't enough space on the drive to transfer the files. Which is ridiculous, because there is a ton of space on it.

So we unplugged it, took it back into the den and plugged it back in and connected it to the computer just to verify how much space was left on it, and now it won't turn on. It tries - you flip the on/off switch and the light comes on for just a second, and that's it.

I honestly have no idea what to do next. Any ideas would be appreciated. (This is our second Lacie external drive that died for no reason right around the 5-year mark - I am super done with this company.) Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
What you've got is a standard hard drive, looks like a 3.5" (that is, full size, not 2.5" laptop size) hard drive inside an enclosure. The enclosure, besides being a plastic box, has a small bridge gadget to convert the SATA connector on the drive (again, standard) to the thunderbolt connector. It's entirely possible the HDD has crapped out, but it's also very possible that the bridge gadget crapped out. AT 5 years of age, it's hard to speculate which one really broke as both of them could be breaking down at that age. You'll want to replace the drive someday soon even if you're able to recover it.

Break the enclosure open (as gently as you can manage -- check youtube for someone disassembling the same or similar model-- hard drive capacity won't make a difference in the procedure) and extract the hard drive, and then either slot it into another enclosure or get yourself a cable which will let you connect a SATA drive to a USB or Thunderbolt connection. I think USB, being more common, is likely to be cheaper. USB 3.0 is the way to go, if you go the USB route.

Then, connect USB (etc.) gadget to the drive, connect to USB (which will provide adequate power) and see if the drive is accessible as USB storage device. If the drive is not accessible or detected at all, then it's probably boned, but maybe your LaCie will continue working with another HDD in its place. If the drive works, chuck out the LaCie, and concern yourself with your current needs, followed by replacing the LaCie+HDD in the short-to-medium term.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:02 PM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Basically, you reached end of life for a spinning disk drive. Being regularly power cycled and carried around the house is actually pretty hard on a desktop hard drive that is designed to be plugged in and left alone. In the future, get a large desktop drive that can just sit(just pick whatever wirecutter recommends, it’ll be fine) and a portable drive for fetching stuff from things like the PlayStation. Also, if the big drive is the only place where valuable digital objects are stored, you should probably be backing that up too.
posted by rockindata at 8:04 PM on December 10, 2017

Response by poster: (Not to threadsit, just want to note that we don't usually carry it around the house - this is the first time it's been moved from its place next to the computer in years.)
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2017

Sunburnt is right about what you should try next; these hard drives are standard, LaCie just sticks them in an enclosure with an adapter. You can purchase a relatively cheap SATA to USB adapter or enclosure, open up the LaCie enclosure, yank the drive out, and use the new adapter/enclosure to try to read it. Make sure you get one with an external power supply; USB doesn't provide enough power to keep a 3.5" drive running, which is most likely what's inside the LaCie drive.

All that said, hard drives dying in 5 years is not terribly surprising, though most that I've had last longer. If using a different enclosure doesn't get things working again, you might have to send it to a data recovery company in order to get stuff off of it. And in the future, anything that's important enough that you'd be bothered if you lost it should be saved in at least two places, because drives will eventually fail, no matter who makes them, and it's much cheaper and easier to recover from backups you make yourself than it is to rely on data recovery services.
posted by Aleyn at 8:51 PM on December 10, 2017

The advice above on getting the data out is good. The drive has simply died of old age, whether it's Lacie brand or otherwise. I would expect many consumer hard drives to fail by about year 5. A commonly quoted statistic released by Backblaze (an online backup company which runs tens of thousands of hard drives) seems to show that hard drives face increasingly severe probability of failure as they age - 90% survive to year 3, 80% survive to year 4, and if you follow the slope, only 65% would survive to year 5.
posted by xdvesper at 9:08 PM on December 10, 2017

Yup, the smart money is on a dead hard drive. If a drive doesn't fail shortly after purchase they have a typical life cycle of about 3 years, after which you're on borrowed time (in my experience).

It's definitely worth a try to pull it out of the enclosure and connect it through a different adapter to see if that works. If not, it's probably time to look into recovery options.
posted by owls at 9:22 PM on December 10, 2017

If it has an external power adapter and you have another one with the same specs and plug size you could try it to rule out the power adapter as the problem before you proceed with more expensive options. Make sure the current capacity and plug polarization are the same as the lacie adapter before your power it up.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:37 PM on December 10, 2017

Powering drives on and off can be very stressful on them. There's a thermal shock thing that goes on as a hard drive goes from room to operating temperature and back again that isn't particularly great for a drive, and parking the heads is also something that causes wear and tear.

Heat is also a killer for hard drives, and recent external USB drives generally have no cooling fan and usually a plastic enclosure. The LaCie's aluminum enclosure might be somewhat better than plastic at passive cooling, but it is likely that it is still pretty warm inside. The average consumer-grade 3.5" HDD dissipates 5-10 watts, and that is hard to get rid of. 2.5" drives usually run quite a bit cooler because they're using less power, but they are also somewhat slower.

Five years isn't an unreasonably short lifetime for a hard drive being treated in this manner, and you probably shouldn't be too hard on LaCie.

For portable drives, as in one you plan to unplug and haul around now and then, use a 2.5". Basically all modern consumer 2.5" drives evolved from laptop drive technology which tends to be more resilient to movement, dropping, etc., and runs cooler.

For backups and data storage, it could be worth looking into a small NAS unit such as a Synology or QNAP. These attach to your computer over the network, and can be shared, and - most importantly - you can configure them in RAID1 or RAID5 for redundancy, so that loss of a drive does not result in the loss of your data. If you take the time to read the docs and set it up fully, these can serve you very well, they'll notify you when a disk is failing, and you may gain some other features as an additional benefit.
posted by jgreco at 4:14 AM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also it just finally came to me (insufficient coffee) that you probably have a Seagate drive in that LaCie. The 1.5TB and 3TB Seagate desktop drives of that approximate era had some phenomenal failure rates.

This isn't anything against Seagate. Each manufacturer has had its rough patches (WD and some of the Greens, HGST and the Deskstars, etc). 5 years is actually pretty lucky.
posted by jgreco at 6:19 AM on December 11, 2017

Sunburnt has good advice. Many people are not noting the difference between the drive and the case, two completely different things. You need to figure out which one is broken.

Buy a new drive either way.
posted by bongo_x at 9:17 AM on December 11, 2017

That the light comes on and then turns off makes me think it's a power supply issue more than a drive issue as well. The first thing to do is to crack that thing open, get the actual drive out, and plug it into a different enclosure so you can see if it works or not.

Bare minimum, a USB/Thunderbolt enclosure and a new drive to put in it, will likely be cheaper overall than a pre-enclosed drive.
posted by SansPoint at 10:05 AM on December 11, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I legit had no idea that only five years of use is a reasonable expectation for an external drive. I’ll see what I can figure out about taking the actual drive out of its external case (and may come back with another Ask regarding it). I probably won’t have much time to fool with it until after the holidays.
posted by skycrashesdown at 5:17 PM on December 11, 2017

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